A New Start For the New Year

January 5, 2018 | Posted by Art Scherer

Way back in 1994, Peter Drucker wrote a piece for the old Net Fax network on “Jumping the Sigmoid Curve.” Drucker pointed out that one of the most useful tools in understanding the natural life cycle of a product, an organization, a church or even a relationship is the sigmoid or S curve.

The secret to constant growth is to start a new S curve before the first one ends. The right place to start the second curve is at point A when there is time, energy and resources to get the new curve through its initial stages before the first curve plateaus and declines.


Most organizations, of course, do not begin a new cycle until point B. The reason is that at point A everything seems to be going well, so why change things?

Another reason is that change may initially produce a drop during a time of learning and acceptance, as shown in the shaded area. Congregations often go through this same kind of life cycle. It is a cycle that begins with a mission, vision, and outreach, which ends up with an emphasis on structure, organization, and finance.

We’ve all seen it happen: The excitement of a mission congregation turns into the routine business and reports of a Voters Meeting. Nevertheless, many are reluctant to make the changes necessary at point A and even at point B. Many congregations have found themselves beyond point B when the energy, resources, and leadership are no longer there to start a new curve.

How long does the cycle take?

An expert in mission planting once said that the best place to plant a new church is not necessarily in a new or growing community. but a community where all the churches are at least 35 years old. By that time, most of the congregations have reached the peak of the sigmoid curve.

Where is your congregation on the sigmoid curve? Where are you in your own ministry? I found that every seven or eight years I had to do something significant to jump-start my ministry like starting my doctoral program or taking a sabbatical. Congregations need to do the same thing. How will you jump the missional sigmoid curve in 2018? Where will you begin?

HINT: Start with theology, not programs. Get back into the Word and get excited once again about where God might be leading you and about His promises to be with you.

What you need to do is to change the “culture” of your congregation from an establishment culture to a missional culture. Your “culture” is like the default setting on your computer. A particular program may change the default in stewardship or evangelism while it is being used, but unless the default (culture) is changed, you go right back to the default when the program is ended. Culture change starts by examining your theology and ecclesiology, remembering who you are as God’s people and why He has put you in this place to share the gracious message of His love in Christ.

Start by gathering a group of like-minded people. Find a mentor for yourself. Get into the Word. And be ready for a new start in the new year.

Art Scherer
Art Scherer is President Emeritus of the Southeastern District, LCMS, and a consultant in stewardship and capital funding for LCEF. Dr. Scherer is developer of LCEF’s popular Consecrated Stewards series and author of the Living as Children of a Generous God Bible studies.